Heart Health for Women: February is American Heart Month

There are 450,000 women’s heart disease deaths per year in the United States. The classic symptom of a heart attack is crushing pain in the chest. However, it turns out for women that intense chest pain occurs less than 30% of the time before women’s heart attacks, this information according to Dr. Ranit Mishori writing in the Parade.

Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms

Women’s symptoms of a heart attack can include heaviness or pressure in the upper body areas like the back, shoulders, neck, or jaw. Shortness of breath may be prominent or nausea and cold sweats. In addition, some women report extreme fatigue and a sense of doom months before a heart attack.

The Top Two Ways to Preserve a Healthy Heart

The two most imperative, common-sense things you can do to maintain a healthy heart is to eat right and exercise daily. Choose lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, olive oil, nuts, fish, and a minimum of red meat. Two ways-of-eating that utilize these foods are the Mediterranean and the Vegetarian diets. Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes; choose aerobic activities such as fast walking, jogging, swimming, dancing or cycling.

Increase Knowledge about Weight, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Additional heart-healthy things to do are watch your weight, monitor your blood pressure, and know your cholesterol and blood numbers. Use the BMI (body mass index) to establish your healthy weight. As reported in the Environmental Nutrition Newsletter, a study called Interheart that involved 27,000 people from 52 countries, found that the ratio of waist to hip measurement is the best predictor of heart attack risk; best for women is .85 or less.

Health professionals say blood pressure should be below 120/80. Know ways to keep it in check, like cutting salt intake, not smoking and getting enough sleep. In a five-year British study reported in the journal Hypertension, women who slept for six hours or less were more apt to acquire high blood pressure.

It is not enough to know just your total cholesterol; know your HDL, LDL, triglycerides (TG), blood sugar and ratio of triglycerides to HDL (TG divided by HDL). A two ratio is ideal, but greater than two can be a warning sign for possible heart disease. As stated in The Top 100 Zone Foods researcher Dr. Barry Sears noted a Harvard University study that found a high ratio of TG to HDL is 16 more times predictive of a heart attack than a low ratio.

Five Healthy Heart Guidelines from Research

A study, reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, followed almost 25,000 healthy, post-menopausal women for six years. The women who followed five guidelines cut their heart attack risk by a whopping 92%. The five guidelines are eat a healthy diet, drink a moderate amount of alcohol (3 to 10 drinks per week), don’t be overweight, exercise daily and don’t smoke.

Assess your Heart Attack Risk

You can get an analysis of how likely you are to have a heart attack in the next 10 years using this American Heart Association risk calculator.

This is an educational article only; seek your heath care provider for advice. Heart attack symptoms need emergency care.

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